“Yes.” The reason no other race had ever been able to use that weakness to wipe out the Psy was a lack of knowledge—only a Psy in the Net, one with access to classified information, could gather data on the identities and physical locations of the anchors and their fail-safes.
Adria blew out a breath. “My God … the trust they’ve put in us.”
“Whether or not other Psy do,” Judd said, “Nikita and Anthony both understand there are certain lines DarkRiver and SnowDancer will not cross.” That core of honor was one of the reasons Walker and Judd had risked defecting into such dangerous changeling territory—the idea of “acceptable collateral damage” was anathema to the packs. Children and innocents were not to be harmed, and a Net collapse ended lives with pitiless impartiality. “Regardless, it’s only a temporary trust—soon as the anchors are moved, we’ll no longer have that information.”
“Why are the safe houses taking so long to organize?” Riaz asked, blinking away the water beading on his lashes. “These anchors are sitting ducks right now.”
Judd’s own frustration echoed the other lieutenant’s. “They can’t be moved too far.” It was a critical limitation. “Not if they’ll be staying in that location for a while, and we have to assume they’ll be there for the duration.” The anchor population needed to remain evenly distributed—too many in one area, or anchors moved too far outside the region, would warp the fabric of the PsyNet. “It makes it harder to find safe bolt holes.”
Riaz swore low on his breath, grim understanding in his expression. “Because the assassins know they only have to search a limited area.”
“Yes.” Anchors also had a high need for stability, so they couldn’t be shifted to a temporary location, then moved again without negatively impacting the Net in this region. “However, the latest update from Nikita and Anthony gives an estimate of forty-eight hours before the relocations begin.”
“How bad is it going to get?” Adria said after Judd finished speaking, fighting the urge to wrap herself around Riaz and just breathe in the living heat of his skin until the chill left her bones. She didn’t regret killing the assassin, but the violence had shaken her nonetheless—she wanted to kiss away the ugly bruises on her lone wolf’s neck, to cuddle into him and allow her guard to drop.
“Bad,” Judd said in response to her question. “Pure Psy might’ve lost this Tk, but they’ll find another.” Unspoken was the reality that Judd’s designation was one of the most unstable in the Net, vulnerable fodder for a group that promised peace. “There is a high chance they’ll move on to random targets … to people we can’t protect.”
Bleak and dark, his words made it clear just how many Psy might die in the coming days and weeks, perhaps months. “They won’t win,” she said fiercely. “We won’t let them.”
Judd touched his fingers to her cheek in an unexpected caress from this most remote of males, his skin cool from the rain. “You helped save an anchor today, and in doing so, protected thousands of innocents. It’s a start.” He nodded toward the SUV they’d driven up in. “I’m going to see if I can find out anything further.”
A sudden shiver quaked Adria’s frame as the Psy lieutenant got in and started the engine. “I need to shower.”
“Come here.” Eyes night-glow in the mist turning to fog, Riaz went to tug her into his arms.
“No. I’m all—”
He hauled her close, squeezing her nape and bending to rub his cheek over hers. Stubbled, his jaw was like sandpaper, but she didn’t care, his skin an inferno. All she wanted was to crawl into him and never come out.
“I damn well am not letting you be alone right now,” he growled. “So don’t you dare send me away.”
She had to, of course she had to, but she was weak enough that she clung to the solid strength of him for long minutes before allowing him to walk her back to her room. But when he would’ve come in, she put her hand on his chest and held him at bay. “No.” It was so hard to get the single word out past the violent need choking her up.
Eyes of Spanish gold slammed into hers, the fury in them tempered by a tenderness that killed her. Ignoring her hand and her declaration both, he walked in and closed the door behind him.
But he was already spinning her around and tugging off her damp T-shirt. Gripping it in one hand, his other splayed on her abdomen as he stood behind her, he said, “I will never forgive you if you don’t let me take care of you tonight.” It was the vow of a predatory changeling male driven to the brink.
To her shame, she wasn’t strong enough to push him away a second time. Instead, she let him strip her with gentle hands, let him join her in the steamy warmth of the shower and tend to her with a wild affection that broke her heart. There was no longer any anger in him, only a possessive gentleness that branded her as his.
Snuggled in a towel afterward, she sat while he dried her hair, then held on to him as he picked her up and carried her to the bed. Where he cuddled her close and ran his hand down her spine until she knew that held safe in his arms, the woodsmoke and citrus bite of his scent in her every breath, she’d have no nightmares.
She was on the verge of sleep, her eyes heavy, but she heard the words of love he spoke, her beautiful black wolf … and she knew this night would break the last remaining fragment of her heart.